Global Flexible Workspace Market Grows 18% In Just 12 Months

 Instant launches only report to provide a comparison of the coworking and serviced office markets in key cities across the world.  

– New York named as most expensive city to rent a desk –

29 June 2017– The global flexible office market has grown by over 18 per cent in the last 12 months, becoming one of the key success stories for the commercial real estate sector and dramatically changing the way that businesses approach the provision of workspace.

The research report from The Instant Group, the flexible workspace specialist, found that New York City remains the most expensive place in the world to rent a desk with San Francisco and Chicago following closely behind.  Sydney, Los Angeles and London are also amongst the top six.

These cities have all shown healthy growth rates in terms of supply of new offices – with the average increase in supply over 12 months around 16 per cent.  But they have also shown an average increase in desk rates of 12 per cent during the same period as occupier demand for space remains strong.

With an average growth rate of 20 per cent across the emerging markets such as the UAE, and Asia-Pacific, the new markets for coworking are showing greater, proportional growth than the larger, more established cities such as New York and London.   While the key cities of the US and the UK capital remain the largest markets for flexible workspace, the most rapid expansion is happening in Hong Kong, Abu Dhabi, Berlin and Sydney, where strong occupier demand is driving supply.

The report is the first ever comparison of flexible office spaces across key cities around the world. The data offers a snapshot view of the developments in each of the global cities and provides a strong indication of where the market is heading.

John Duckworth, MD of The Instant Group EMEA, said: “Commentators across the real estate market and the wider business community are quick to seize on the flexible workspace phenomenon as a disruptive force for change.  From Instant’s research with occupiers, landlords and operators, it is clear that this is thanks to a manifestation of broader business trends – globalisation, innovation and adoption of technology.  Businesses embracing this way of working are breaking down the perception of the office as a long-term investment, asset class, or lease.

“The business world has moved on; the shift towards more agile, outsourced solutions means that an office is wherever and whatever an occupier wants it to be.   This presents a significant opportunity and one that flexible workspace operators have been quick to identify with an imaginative, curated response to market demand.”

Global Cities’ outlook

Growth in many of these markets has been aggressive as adoption of a more flexible approach to workspace procurement increases, but it is the data around occupier demand and pricing that tells the real story, and hints at just how far this market can grow:


London has witnessed an influx of new operators and additional centres, with a 16 per cent growth in 2016. The UK has also seen expansion in the key cities of Manchester and Birmingham, mainly down to large-scale projects taking off and encouraging demand for serviced office space. This increased activity has seen the average desk rate in London rise by nine per cent to $897. However, this is 19% cheaper than it is to rent a desk in New York and a similar price to doing so in Paris.


Coworking has quickly permeated the flexible workspace markets of the key US destinations and an average of 37 per cent of space in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco is now described as coworking.  Each of these cities has also shown growth rates of more than 15 per cent in the past year despite their relative maturity compared to the other global cities.  Although average workstation rates are more than $900 per person, per month, 16 per cent more expensive than London, prices in these cities are continuing to creep upwards showing trajectory growth of 12 per cent over the past 12 months.


The number of coworking centres and other types of flexible office space have grown by as much as 36 per cent in Australia in just five years.   Over the last two years the number of enquiries for flexible workspace in Australia has almost tripled and occupier interest in the centres listed on has doubled in the last year to January 2017.


Abu Dhabi has seen the effects of the reduced global oil price which has resulted in a drop in rental values in the office sector by as much as 25 per cent. Flexible office operators have followed suit and reduced prices accordingly.  Compared to its US counterparts, the coworking revolution in flexible space is moving at a slower rate in EMEA, with serviced offices still the predominant type of workspace available.

The Latest News
Delivered To Your Inbox

Asia Pacific

Hong Kong

The Hong Kong market has grown by 16 per cent in the last year, doubling in size in the past two years.  There are now 202 flexible workspaces available in Hong Kong, which compares to 330 in New York City and 1,136 in London.  Average desk rates in Hong Kong are $616 compared to $897 in London.  This is in direct contrast to conventional office rents where Hong Kong has some of the most expensive real estate in the world and shows the benefits of procuring flexible space in such a competitive market.


The serviced office market in Singapore experienced 22 per cent growth in 2016. The cost per workstation is considerably cheaper than some of the other key cities at $472 – which is lower than Shanghai, Hong Kong and a substantial 57 per cent cheaper than New York for what is a key urban location for the Asia Pacific region.


The Shanghai market saw centre growth of 17 per cent in 2016 and an overall increase of 20 per cent in the last three years. There are now a total of 70 operators competing for market share across a total of 200 centres. With an average workstation rate of $505 – the costs of desks in Shanghai has decreased year on year.

The future

Tim Rodber, CEO of the Instant Group, added: “There are some significant changes emerging in the marketplace. Office space has become increasingly more flexible, offering improved agility with options and better terms for businesses of all sizes with a greater choice of workspace than ever before.  Access to this rich data will ensure that landlords and operators are able to better service their client’s needs with tailored solutions and a more occupier-centric approach, which can only be a good thing.”

The full report can be found here.

Share this article